Pop Culture, Race & Politics

When It’s Okay For White People To Say “Nigger,” “Nigga,” Or Any Other “Nigger” Derivatives

Between Paula Deen thinking she’s Scarlett O’Hara, Accidental Racist, Georgef*ckingZimmerman (“GFZ” for short for now on), the fact that the most talked about movie in the country has made Black people who’ve seen it so angry that they’ve started hating cauliflower just because it’s white, and Riley Cooper’s ass forgetting he has to line up every week against irrationally angry and unbelievably coordinated descendants of slaves who happen to look like this and this, I imagine this summer has been quite difficult for our lighter-skinned brethren.

Because of this, I’m here today to lend the White people of America a helping hand with one of my favorite subjects: the word “nigger.” While most understand the historical context of this word and stay the hell away from it—or don’t understand it at all but still stay the hell away from itsome still seem to be confused about why they’re not “allowed” to use it, and whether there is ever a situation where the rules regarding nigger use are relaxed.

To aid with this issue, I invited a random internet White person (“RIWP” for short) who’s still unsure about nigger use and usage to a quite an enlightening back and forth. Our conversation is below. (His statements are in italics)

RIWP: Thanks for inviting me. You definitely are a very smart Black person.

Me: Yeah, this already isn’t getting off to a great start.

RIWP: I’m sorry.

Me: I know. So, you had some questions…?

RIWP: So yeah. When is it okay for White people to say nigger?

Me: Never.

RIWP: Never?

Me: Ever.

RIWP: Not even…

Me: Nope

RIWP: How about if…

Me: Nah.

RIWP: What if…

Me: Hell no

RIWP: You’re not even letting me…

Me: F*ck you. 

RIWP: You’re not even letting me finish my ques…

Me: Re-F*ck you. 

RIWP: How can we have a conversation if you won’t even let me speak?

Me: I’m letting you speak. Just not letting you finish.

RIWP: You know what I mean!

Me: I guess you make a good point. Speak away.

RIWP: Thank you. So, like I was trying to say, what if…

Me: Did I say f*ck you already? LOL. Just playin. Go ahead.

RIWP: So, what if you’re dating a Black woman, and you’re at her house for Thanksgiving, and her drunk uncle calls you his “nigga,” actually asks “Are you my nigga?” and pauses to wait for a response? 

Me: It’s a trap. The only Black people who do stuff like this at family gatherings are fresh out, so he’s likely waiting for justification to rape you. 

RIWP: That doesn’t make any sense.

Me: It doesn’t have to. 

RIWP: Ok. So, what if I’m at a club and my favorite Mobb Deep song comes on. Am I allowed to repeat the lyrics?

Me: Look. It’s not uncommon for Black-owned nightclubs and bars to be in debt. And, if it’s 2013 and Mobb Deep is playing, it’s usually a sign the owner said “F*ck it. I’m going to lose this place in a month anyway, so I might as well play shit I like.”

Anyway, since he’s probably losing the place, he probably stopped paying the bills months ago. Why does this matter? Well, when the music abruptly stops because of electric bill nonpayment, you don’t want to be the White guy who happened to be screaming “Kill dat nigga!!!” when everything gets silent. 

So, no. But, it’s for your own good. 

RIWP: So, let me get this right. Only Black people can say “nigga” and no one can ever say “nigger?” There are no other circumstances where it’s okay for a non-Black person to do it.

Me: Well, there was a window from 1999 to 2004 when Puerto Ricans from the Bronx and Dominicans from Harlem were “allowed” to say it. But, we only let them do that because we still felt bad about Big Pun. Plus, they’re Black anyway, even if they don’t want to admit it. The only difference between them and us is that the guys steering their slave ships were drunk.

Aside from that though, no. Well, lemme rephrase that. You can say it. Shit, you can say anything. But, if you do, don’t be surprised if someone with the last name “Vick” puts a bounty on you. And, by “someone with the last name Vick puts a bounty on you” I mean “Michael Vick’s little brother randomly shows up outside of your home.”

RIWP: Wait, he’s broke isn’t he. How will I know he’s there to beat me up? What if he just needs me to co-sign on a couch set?

Me: Good question.

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a contributing editor for EBONY.com. He resides in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes.

  • HRH Prince Farouk I

    Lol @ the guys steering their slave ships were drunk. Yeah I m foreign and black and even in my limited stay in the US, I know there is never a right time for a white person to say the n word. However if he/she is alone in their room bumping to a song with the word in it and singing along then I guess they can say it only because if a tree fell in a forest and no one saw it did it fall (I remember some ish like that from philosophy class, lol). At the end of the day, I m blacker than charcoal and I try not to use the N word so yeah white folk, that’s a big no-no.

    Yours Sincerely,
    The African

  • HRH Prince Farouk I

    Now you’re gonna make me go watch fruitvale station. Is it any good? Lol @ the guys steering their slave ships were drunk. Yeah I m foreign and black and even in my limited stay in the US, I know there is never a right time for a white person to say the n word. However if he/she is alone in their room bumping to a song with the word in it and singing along then I guess they can say it only because if a tree fell in a forest and no one saw it did it fall (I remember some ish like that from philosophy class, lol). At the end of the day, I m blacker than charcoal and I try not to use the N word so yeah white folk, that’s a big no-no.

    Yours Sincerely,
    The African

  • Jay-D, MBA

    white people do that green eggs and ham shit with the n word

    Can I say it on a float?

    Can I say it on a goat?

    Can I say it in the hood?

    Can I say it in a rap song so they know I’m good?

    Can I say it with a black pal?

    Can I say it with my black gal?

    Can I say it on the floor?

    Can I say it while on tour?

    • brandon

      Isay nigga like I’m black and no black person says shit about it I eVen apologized onetime andhe said I don’t Give a Fuck bro it’s cool

  • http://www.twitter.com/IluminatiNYC Todd

    I think the issue is that Black functions both as a race and as an ethnic group. Yes, I know all Black people aren’t alike, and I’m thankful that Bob Johnson was short-sighted enough in his understanding of what Blackness is to avoid the creation of West Indian and African Immigrant coonery. Still, there’s this odd conflation in the American mind of African-American (the ethnic group) and Black (the sociobiological concept of race) that causes a lot of dumb problems among non-Black people (and occassionally among Black folk, but that’s another story).

    For example, there’s no one go-to word I can call a random White person that’s the equivalent of the N-word. However, if I’m in a club full of Italians on the Jersey Shore, for example, and I call someone a ginnie, my odds of getting stomped the f*ck out have increased about 9783%. I know from living in New York that if I say certain words in front of the wrong group of White people, my moribidity rate for that day will go up. That’s why in my experience White ethnics are marginally more likely to get it that saying the N-word is a very, very Bad Thing. Interestingly enough, there’s no word I can call a WASP or a White Southerner that has the same impact. (Cr*cker is very regional, limited to South Georgia, North Florida and the Florida interior.) Hell, apparently there’s levels to this White sh*t.

    That said, I will offer a sad corollary to when White people are allowed to use the N-word. I had a White female friend of mine relay the story of when she invited a brother over for some intimate fun, and he decided to go for unauthorized access of hole #3 with no warning. The result was blinding pain, an ambulance call, repeated blood transfusions, 3 days of emergency surgery and nerves among Black guys. At that point, after being talked out of getting the negroes of fair New Jersey to enact some revolutionary justice on her erstwhile friend, I had to repeat that Chris Rock routine about when it’s acceptable for White people to say the N-word. It just seemed to fit.

  • Trill Mickelson

    Can I just ask where this -a vs. -er ish came from? I HATE when people do this stupid crap. It’s the same word, but with a particular dialect (you know, since we were denied equal education up until about 50 years ago… at the earliest).

    When I say “sugar,” it comes out as “suga.” No one ever considers these two different words. My regional accent makes me pronounce my home as “Baldamore,” and people have no trouble realizing that this is the same place as Baltimore, Maryland. It follows that when I say “nigga,” I’m really saying “nigger,” but I just don’t sound like a slave master while doing it.

    I wish people (both Black and white) would stop doing this dumb ish of differentiating so that one’s okay and one’s not. They aren’t. “Nigger” is one word, and it’s never okay for a non-Black person to say, no matter how you pronounce it.

    • Marvin

      “Nigga” was invented in Hip Hop mainly as a way to de-power the word “Nigger.”

      “Nigga” is a term of endearment. “Nigger” is always an insulting term.

      And though I am likely in the minority on this, I think its dumb as hell to try to “ban” a word. The word itself doesn’t fucking matter. Its the CONTEXT of the word.

      Just like the word “faggot.” I can call someone a faggot all day long, but it doesn’t mean I hate gay people, or even using it as a term to insult gays. Its mostly used around here as “someone who behaves inapprorpiately.” Not as an insult to homosexuals.

      You are never going to completely get rid of a word that has been given so much power like “nigger.” So hip hop had it right all along. Once you de-power the word, it now longer has the same effect. That’s why Black men can now call each other “niggas” all the time. That’s how you get rid of its context as a insult to Black people. Just “banning” a word is childish and will never work. Like, ever.

      But no. Motherfuckers want to live in the past and can’t let shit go. ‘Well… fuck those sensitive-ass niggas.’ It’s 2013. Grow the fuck up and stop letting people have so much power over you with a two-syllable noise. Move past that shit.

  • Ionian

    Every single white person at once needs to immediately start using the word nigger. Whenever you see a black person call him a nigger. Say “Hey nigger!” and move on. This is the only way to defang the stupid that is black america that firmly believes that a petty insult carries more weight than say – having a gun pointed at you. If someone is pointing a gun at your head you have every right to call them a nigger assuming its a nigger doing the crime (and it usually is).

    Blacks – sorry – niggers – use this as a club to pretend that a word is somehow so evil as to excuse their bad behavior. Obviously they don’t chimp out when their own nigger buddies use the word so obviously it isn’t the word that is causing the problem … it is their piss poor stupid attitude.

    Blacks should not “allow” whites the privilege of doing anything. Just like blacks (sorry niggers ) feel its their right to chimp out whenever they be ‘disrespected’ whites should take back this word. All while police and those who are armed especially need to make it a habit to use this word. Can a nigger control himself when there is a gun pointed at his chimp cranium? Of course! Suddenly he be all calm and sheeeeet… Whites have had to endure monstrously awful crime at the hands of blacks – we owe black america *NOTHING* and we should never believe that a word is owned by anyone. If blacks can’t stand hearing whites say “nigger” than go the fuck home to Aperica and see all the joy your people make for themselves when whitey isn’t helping you. Haiti is a good choice too. Fuck you stupid niggers.

    – a white person who believes in calling a spade a spade (nigger!)

  • AryanLiving

    Its always appropriate for a white man to say “nigger” we invented it! It takes advantage of our natural voice inflection and speech patterns . But “nigga” or “nigga’z” I personaly steer away from using it. It sounds wiggery and whites don’t have the natural voice inflection that “niggers” (see you said it like a white person in your head, didnt you?) have to make it sound appetizing to the ears!
    P.S do a piece on wiggers, and why blacks can’t stand them either!

  • BrewHaha

    Good rule of thumb as to when it’s ok for a white person to say “nigger”: it should only happen when you aren’t currently around any. Lol not really. I am not racist either but I think its hilarious how bent out of shape people get over political correctness. We either need to all stop saying it, or accept it as part of the English language, albeit a very offensive prejoritive one.

  • Marvin P.

    Actually, this
    article is a bit inaccurate. The Unspoken, Unofficial Rules agreed between us
    Black People are:

    Any White person is “allowed” to say “nigga” *if* they have
    grown up around African Americans for a large part of their life (at least ten
    years), and are considered an ‘unofficial black person’ by the community. The
    agreement usually applies more to White Males than White Females, though (White
    females typically being more racist than White males).

    Hispanics can say it at any time if they A) have also grown up with African
    American peers and/or neighbors and friends and B) have a household income of
    less than $40,000 a year or basically, are of lower middle class or working
    class socioeconomic status. (Basically, the “Puerto Rican/Mexican
    niggas.”)

    Asians have to follow the same rules as Whites: Long-term bond/friendships
    within the African American community and accepted status as “unofficial
    black person.”

    Those who are not within the agreed guidelines have to use either
    “N-Word” as a non-malicious intent substitute, such as when a hip hop
    song comes on the radio (Yes, you must say “Jigga, my N-Word” or
    “N-Words in Paris”) or, nothing at all and don’t even bother using
    the word or any substitutes.

    Those caught using “Nigga,” “Nigger,” or
    “N-Word” or any variation of the word with ANY racial, malicious,
    offensive, or derogatory intent (such as, “Shut the fuck up, you dirty-ass
    N-Word.”) ARE subject to severe bodily injury or blunt force trauma by the
    closest African Americans within the vicinity. (Basically, getting beat the
    fuck down until you start to lose blood.)

    But basically, a word is a fucking word. Its the CONTEXT behind the word that
    matters. The reason most White people aren’t allowed to say it (besides the
    fact they created the derogatory term the word “nigga” originates
    from, “nigger) is because most Black people will naturally assume White
    people are secretly, or sometimes outwardly racist. Few are willing to give
    them the “benefit of the doubt.” So if no one knows for a fact
    whether or not you truly and genuinely are comfortable with or around Black
    people and overall, appreciate their company, you’re better off avoiding use of
    it.

  • Scottish Lad

    what a load of shite! come in to the real world! its just a word most used without meaning, it is hypocritical for black people to use it and not allow white people to use it, I have no issue with any race in the world but just wish people would make up there mind what is politically correct! when I was growing up it was wrong to call a call some one who was black, black and we called them colored and now that is seen as wrong, it is seen wrong to call a Chinese person a chinky or a Pakistani a pakki, its just a shortened version, I am Scottish and we scotts don’t fly off the handle when when someone calls us Scotts or Jocks, its the same thing right? people need to get a grip and let go of the past! todays generation can’t be held responsible for racism in the past and these words are just words! Scoo

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